Tillie, p.1Rog Phillips
Produced by Greg Weeks, Mary Meehan and the OnlineDistributed Proofreading Team at https://www.pgdp.net
By CRAIG BROWNING
[Transcriber Note: This etext was produced from Amazing Stories December1948. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S.copyright on this publication was renewed.]
[Sidenote: She was just a blob of metal, but she had emotions like anywoman. She, too, wanted ROMANCE, and wasn't coy about running after her"guy"]
"There you are!" Judson Taylor, the eccentric physics prof, pulled ametallic object out of his pocket and laid it on the table between us.The object was a solid chunk of some kind of metal, judging from itsbright silver color, about the size and shape of a pocket knife.
I looked at it stupidly and said, "_Where_ are we?"
I am Bill Halley. Some of the adolescent undergraduate brats at thisone-horse college have nicknamed me "Comet" and it burns me up everytime some pimply-faced baby waves his arm at me and says, "Hiya, Comet."But I smile and don't let them know I don't like it, because if theyknew there would be no living with them. Jud is head of the physicsdepartment and I am one of the three profs under him. When I first camehere last fall he looked at my papers, said "BILL HALLEY?" and sincethen has treated me with the respect he reserves only for the gods ofPhysics. Probably assumed I was a direct descendant of the Halley whogot his name plastered all over Halley's Comet.
Anyway, between classes this morning he had excitedly asked me to meethim at the Campus Lunch during the noon hour and he would show me hislatest discovery--and here we were, wherever that was. I picked up thehunk of metal and turned it over in the palm of my hand, sipping mycoffee from a cup held in my other hand, and tried to figure out why hewas so excited.
There was a peculiar warmth to the stuff. Maybe it was radioactive. Butno, it was too light to be one of the heavy elements. I tossed it backto the table top and then nearly rose to the ceiling. The stuff hadn'tbounced with a metallic sound at all, but had settled slowly, coming torest with no sign of a bump.
I picked it up again and looked at Jud, puzzled.
He grinned and said, "Watch this." Then he looked at the lump of metalin a peculiar manner like he might be trying mental telepathy out on it,and suddenly the stuff weighed a ton. It forced my hand down so fastthat it bruised as it struck the table. As suddenly the stuff becamelight again and Judson Taylor had hold of my hand, rubbing it.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, Bill. I am not too good at controlling it yet."
"What the hell IS that stuff?" I ground out.
"I don't know, exactly," he replied. "Mallory, the biochemist, made itand brought it to me. He said he got a lot of chemicals spilled. One ofthem was a rare enzyme that he didn't want to lose, so he mopped up themess and put it in a large flask and added some alcohol, getting readyto recover this valuable enzyme. Suddenly this stuff started to form onthe sides of the flask, just like silver in the mirror coating process.But all the chemicals were pure hydro-carbons with no silver or othermetal present. According to Mallory this stuff is some unknownhydro-carbon. I've been playing with it for two days now."
Judson Taylor put the stuff back in his pocket and rose.
"Let's go over to my lab. I want to show you some things I've found outabout it."
I gulped down the rest of my coffee and followed him. We crossed thecampus of good old Puget U to the antique building which housed thephysics department. We climbed the creaking stairs to the third floorwhich was devoted mostly to Jud's own private research and was filledwith apparatus that he had accumulated during the thirty years he hadbeen kingpin of this department.
Jud crossed over to a bench on which there was a balance and some otherstuff and placed the hunk of mystery on one tray of the balance. On theother tray he placed a ten-gram weight. The balance swayed a little andthen came to rest on the zero mark, showing the stuff weighed exactlyten grams. Then he placed another ten-gram weight on the tray and thebalance came to rest on the zero mark, showing the stuff weighed exactlytwenty grams!
"Now watch," he said. He placed the silver chunk on the same side as thetwo ten-gram weights, leaving the tray it had been in absolutely empty.The balance fluctuated a little and again came to rest on the zero mark,showing a minus twenty grams!
By that time I had stopped believing what my eyes told me.
"That's quite a trick," I said skeptically. "How do you work it?" And Istooped to look under the table, hoping to see a setup of magnets hiddenthere that would help restore my belief in my sanity.
"I don't work it," Jud exclaimed irritably. "It acts that way itself."
* * * * *
I forgot my one o'clock class entirely. Jud and I played around withthat hunk of metallic hydro-carbon most of the afternoon, arguing backand forth about what caused it to do the things it did. I found out thatif I thought of beefsteak rare while I looked at it, it would weighexactly ten pounds, and if I thought of a chicken with its neck beingwrung the stuff would float up to the ceiling. I tried all sorts ofthoughts on it and got some of the craziest results. But whatever Ithought, when I thought of the same thing again I got the same results.But my results were different than Jud's! When he thought of a chickenwith its neck being wrung the stuff didn't float up to the ceiling butinstead made the floor creak and groan. Finally we took it over to thefeed company and put it on their car scales. Then when Jud thought of achicken with its neck being wrung, we found that the stuff weighedtwelve thousand four hundred and eighty pounds! And it was no biggerthan a pocket knife!
As we stood there and looked at the feed scales in utter amazement Isaid, "Look, Jud, we've got something here. I've got an idea. Suppose werig up a strong resting place for this stuff in my car. Then when Ithink of the right thing it will push the car forward at any speed Iwant to go. We'll have to be careful or it will wreck us, but--maybeafter we know what we are doing we can build a space ship!"
Well, to cut a long story short, two days later Mallory, the biochemist,Jud Taylor, and I were speeding along the state highway with the needlehovering around eighty-five, the engine out of gear and dead, and acrazy bit of silver stuff encased in a special frame in the dashboardwith reinforcing bars down to the chassis holding it steady.
It took two of us to drive the car, though, because one of us had todrive and the other concentrate on the stuff.
Jud had named the stuff "tellepan" before he showed it to me that noon,but I pointed out that tellepan sounded too much like Japanese forturtle, so he renamed it "tellecarbon." Mallory had been wracking hisbrains trying to figure the chemical composition of the stuff, but allhe had found out was that the stuff could not absorb any heat whatever,nor emit any, it had any weight you wanted to give it, and when leftalone assumed any weight it seemed to fancy at the moment. Moreover, noreagent could touch it. Even aqua regia and hydrofluoric acid couldn'ttouch it. It could be manipulated like putty and molded into any shapewith a little persuasion; it always remained the same bright silvercolor, and it seemed to be the connecting link between gravity andthought.
Mallory even got some more bottles of the chemicals he had spilled andspilled them over again, cleaning them up and putting some alcohol inthe mess like he had done the first time, but no more tellecarbonappeared. We finally had to face the facts. Tellecarbon was some complexhydro-carbon because all of its basic constituents were hydro-carbons.We had the only bit of it in existence and no more could be made.
* * * * *
After we had driven for a couple of hours, Jud changed his thought tosomething else and we came to a halt on the highway. No one was in sightso we decided to try our second experiment. For that I had to do thethinking because none of Jud'
Soon we were quite high, or at least Mallory said we were. I looked outof the window to see and the car started to hurtle to the ground. Itscared me so much that I almost couldn't calm my mind enough to think ofchickens, but finally made it just in time. By a supreme effort of willI managed to get the car down safely on the highway again. Then I gavein to my emotions and shook like a leaf.
We had had enough for the day, so we covered up the tellecarbon andstarted the motor, getting back
Tillie by Rog Phillips / Science Fiction have rating 3 out of 5 / Based on18 votes